According to Horseback, Mongolia is a destination that you have to experience from the inside; the relationship with the locals are in the heart of your trip. All our tours give an important place to meetings and you will probably spend one or several nights among nomad breeders families. It's the best way to discover the culture of the country and to understand nomadism. These stays among locals will give you the opportunity to share the daily life of your hosts and taking part in their tasks. You will be led to help in making dairy products, to take part in milking the animals or to help to round up the herd.
It’s difficult to give you details about each family, but we can generally say that :
- there are some yurts (generally three or four) in the family camp, near the family yurt. Each yurt has four to five single beds. During the group tours, you will generally have to share the yurt with the other participants. If it’s a small group, it can be possible, according to availability, to have separated yurts, notably for couples or families ;
- bedding is not of good quality. We bought some thick mattresses for the families who live in the most visited areas, but at other families’, some beds or some mattresses are sometimes thinner, in felt. In some very rare cases, notably at the families’ who receive very few visitors, you might even not find a bed for each one of you; family might propose you only a mattress on the bare ground ;
- in the backpackers tours, you can be hosted in the family yurt and share it with the family, and spend the night on a mattress on the bare ground ;
- the families can’t wash the blankets after each visit, that’s why we provide you an individual sleeping bag. There is not always a pillow and it could be more comfortable for you to bring one ;
- regarding the toilets, in our classic tours, all the families have latrines (small shed in the back of the yard) ;
- regarding the showers, in 2014, we bought wooden shower cabins to ten families of our classic tours. These small shower cabins have been tested during the summer 2014 and received mixed reactions (sometimes the water is cold). These cabins will stay in the families’ camps but do not constitute any sort of contractual obligation on our part. Note that you will be lent some basins and be able to wash yourself this way. Also note that some families, notably in the Gobi desert, don’t have access to water and must save water.
Staying in private homes has dual benefits: this provides the opportunity to be closer to the Mongolian nomads, and to understand their way of life. Sharing their daily life is particularly pleasant in Orkhon Valley or in Naiman Nuur national park for example, because they’re great areas of nomadism. This offers an interesting alternative in terms of accommodation since it’s cheaper than a yurts camp and more comfortable than camping. Some rare families, notably in the national parks where herds are forbidden (Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur national park for example) earn their living by hosting travelers. Meeting them is very pleasant but they’re not nomads anymore.
We are committed to ensuring that there is only one group at a time at each family’, and, in that purpose, we work with many families in each area. Nevertheless, during the high season, and notably for the tours beginning after the Naadam or at the beginning of August, many groups might be at the same family at the same time.
When you’re at a family’s, it’s the family who usually prepares the dinner (your guide or your cook, if you have one, can help). In this case, you will eat Mongolian food. This is a good, but simple and little monotonous food, comprising mainly meat (mutton, goat), flour (from which they make pasta, raviolis, bread, or typical recipes like khuushuur and buuz), rice, or potatoes. Regarding the vegetables, we can find cabbages, carrots, and onions. At last, dairy products are also very consumed in summer. If you are allergic to dairy products, it’s not a problem; you just have to tell it to the guide, who will explain the situation to the family. Breakfasts and lunch are prepared by the agency. If you have any special request, we can prepare vegetarian meals or gluten-free meals.
Last thing about the reception by the families: when they come back from the tour, some groups tell us that the families were wonderful and that they received a marvellous reception, whereas the following group tells us that at this same family’s, they didn’t receive the great Mongolian reception. Why? First of all, don’t forget that the families are not hotels and that the reception is not a service you can buy, it comes from heart, and cheerful, pleasant and curious persons will always have better reception than the grumpy persons. The more you give, the more you receive. This being so, there can be any external event that was not yet notified to us, for example the illness of a relative, a birth, some work to do, the leaving of a part of the family for many possible reasons, in short some punctual events that make the family busy or not inclined to welcome you properly. Don’t worry, this happens rarely and should not concern more than one family during your tour.